It was the budding tree just outside my front door.
I'll grant you, it looked a lot more menacing before an ice storm that took a number of the larger limbs a few years ago, but it still generates lots of pollen. Allergy season has begun.
Does it ever truly end?
I recently heard that spring allergies begin in January, as trees begin the earliest stage of budding. Summer allergies, of course, end with the first hard freeze, usually in November in my neck of the woods.
December brings with it the dusty Christmas tree that's spent the previous 11 months in storage.
My suspicions have been confirmed. Allergies are a year-round curse...the curse of beauty.
Allergies come from all the things we delight in as winter turns to spring.
They come from the lush green grass that we crave, not only to look at, but to walk through in our bare feet.
And even as we relish the wonderful sights to behold, we find ourselves struggling to breathe.
My allergies got worse as I got older. I was in my 30s before I ever had an ear infection. That first one was caused by spring allergies. I was 34 and had an infection so bad that I had to have tubes put in my ear in order to clear it up. People looked at me in disbelief. More than once, I was asked, "They can do that at your age?"
Uh, yeah. Clearly they could. I had to put Vaseline and a big wad of cotton in my ear before every shower for weeks to keep the water out.
The next fall, my ear stopped up again, although it wasn't as bad as the first time. Throughout the rest of my 30s, my ears were routinely stopped up from October until late April. Each year, just as they'd begin to clear up from fall allergies, spring allergies would kick in.
I tried singing in the choir and had to give up because I couldn't hear the notes. (Actually, it was typically the same note for 32 measures that I couldn't hear. That would be the curse of being an alto. Altos hardly ever get to sing the pretty part, the melody. Meanwhile, sopranos have all the fun!)
In my 40s, I progressed from ear infections to my very first sinus infection. I had no idea it was possible to feel so miserable. The beauty of the earth brought me little more than misery. I was truly beginning to hate nature. Instead of eagerly looking forward to spring, all I felt was dread.
I know, I know. There are drugs for these things. I have friends who get shots for their allergies but I'm way too big a wimp to sign up for regular shots and I don't like taking prescription drugs long-term. Maybe it was Elvis, I don't know, but somewhere along the line I decided that was a bad idea.
So I suffered until the day a God-thing happened. I know we tend to think God only intervenes for really big stuff, but occasionally, I am convinced the He reaches down to change the quality of our lives in ways that seem small at the time, but have huge impact. I have no doubt that He really does care about chronically stuffy noses.
A couple of years after my first sinus infection, I was in a drugstore loading up on throat lozenges and nasal spray as I recovered from another one. There was no one else in line, so the cashier was free to chat. At the time, chatting was the last thing I wanted to do. All I wanted to do was take my drugs home and crawl into bed. It took all of my strength to stop myself from snapping at her when she started rambling on and on about how she and her husband had both been dealing with sinus infections over the previous couple of months.
But then she said something that piqued my interest.
"Garlic," she told me. "You need to take garlic. You'll never get another sinus infection." It was January, you see, so in addition to the remnants of my sinus infection, my ears were also stopped up, as they had been since October. I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly.
"Garlic? Huh? Fresh garlic?"
"No, garlic pills."
That particular sinus infection had taken 2 rounds of antibiotics and 5 or 6 weeks to clear up. I was so desperate, I was willing to try anything. Much to my surprise, my ears cleared up weeks ahead of the normal April date. I've never had another sinus or ear infection, and that was 8 years ago.
Here's my disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, and I've never played one on TV. I'm not much on holistic stuff but I do know that you should always check side effects, even with herbs. I know that garlic has been associated with stomach problems, and it can act as a blood thinner. Since blood clots run in my family, that's actually another plus for me. It can be dangerous for pets, so keep that in mind.
Back to me, because it is all about me. My allergies are still with me, but they're not nearly as bad as they once were. I can look at the budding tree by my front door and accept that my eyes and my throat are going to itch for a couple of weeks and my nose is going to run but I can live with that. I can even sleep with the windows open and wake up rested and able to breathe. I've stopped dreading spring. Life is good!
Of course, I 'spose that garlic could explain that whole singleness thing. Hmmmm.
For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.